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by Jessi Braverman
July 16, 2015
Photography by Balint Hamvas
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
The 26th edition of the Giro Rosa was action-packed and drama-filled until the final kilometre. There was a bit of something for everyone with a prologue, time trial, flat stages, lumpy stages and two summit finishes. We saw nine different stage winners over ten days and four different riders don the beautiful maglia rosa. Every day was something different and offered a new reason to fall in love with women’s cycling – and the cast of characters that make the professional side of this sport so much fun to follow.
My personal highlights include: Megan Guarnier’s stage win, six day stint in pink and Boels-Dolmans defence of her race lead, Mayuko Hagiwara’s historic stage six victory and her Wiggle Honda teammates pride and joy in sharing in the moment with her, Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) and Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) delivering on their pre-race favourite status – with van Vleuten winning the prologue to pull on the first maglia rosa and van der Breggen blitzing the field in the stage eight individual time trial to assume the race lead. Beyond the racing, I loved discovering all the small moments riders racing the Giro chose to share with us and other reporters, photographers and on their personal social media accounts.
We were lucky to work with Balint Hamvas throughout the Giro Rosa. We shared a handful of his stunning images in our daily race reports and rider diaries. Below we share the rest – with a stage-by-stage recap of the 2015 Giro Rosa.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) time trialled to victory on the opening stage prologue of the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa. Having won the Giro Rosa prologue the previous year and the Euskal Emakumeen Bira prologue in June, van Vleuten, known for her prowess in the short individual efforts, started the stage as the outright favourite.
The Dutchwoman covered the two-kilometre course in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Friday in a time of 2:49.64 to beat out Rabo Liv pair Lucinda Brand and Roxanne Knetemann. With van Vleuten’s prologue win came the the maglia rosa, the coveted pink jersey awarded the overall race leader.
Evie Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) warms up before the evening time trial in Ljubljana, Slovenia. American national time trial champion in 2011, Stevens prefers the longer, hillier time trials over the short, flat, fast ones.
Australian national time trial champion Shara Gillow (Rabo Liv) navigates one of the corners on course.
Macey Stewart (Orica-AIS) makes her Giro Rosa debut.
The first jersey-wearers of the 2015 Giro Rosa (from left to right): Roxane Knetemann (Rabo Liv) in green (mountains), Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Liv) in white (youth), Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) in pink (general classification), Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) in purple (points) and Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) in blue (best Italian).
Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) won the first road stage of the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa on Saturday. The Italian sprinted to victory in Ljubljana, Slovenia ahead of Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) and teammate Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM)
With the bonus seconds Brand snagged at the stage one finish, coupled with her performance in Friday’s prologue, the Dutchwoman moved into the overall race lead, taking the maglia rosa from overnight leader and compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla). Guarischi, who scooped up ten seconds on the line, jumped up to second overall at four seconds while van Vleuten fell to third on the general classification at five seconds.
The majority of the stage was dominated by an early breakaway. Ana Covrig (BePink), Malgorzta Jasinska (Alé Cipollini) and Chantal Hoffman (Lotto Soudal Ladies) slipped away from the peloton before the first intermediate sprint. Hoffman fell off the pace up the day’s only categorised climb, and Malgorzta and Covrig were swept up just before the 10-kilometre mark.
The peloton had no problem keeping the three-rider breakaway in check on stage one.
The Slovenian scenery surprised. The lush landscapes and rolling hills made for a beautiful start to the Giro Rosa.
Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) said that her team’s lead-out was exactly to plan and allowed her to time her sprint perfectly. She waited until 100 metres to jump and let out a loud scream when she crossed the line first.
The heat during the opening road stages was as much a shock to the system as the speed. Orica-AIS teammates Macey Stewart and Katrin Garfoot recover post-race.
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) won stage two of the Giro Rosa from an elite group of eight riders that took shape over the climbs and descents that punctuated the second half of the stage. The American played off a late race attack by teammate Evie Stevens – employing a similar strategy to the one the pair used to net Guarnier her second national road title last May. With the stage win, Guarnier moved into the race lead, pulling on the iconic maglia rosa. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) edged out Ashleigh Moolman-Paiso (Bigla) for second place on the stage.
Following two stages in Slovenia, the Giro Rosa returned to Italy for stage two.
The women’s peloton set off at a quick clip from the start- covering 41 kilometres in the opening hour. With bonus seconds on offer at each of the intermediate sprints, several teams were keen to keep the race together early as all three intermediate sprint points came in the first half of the stage.
Flávia Oliveira (Alé Cipollini) and Carlee Taylor (Lotto Soudal Ladies) slipped away from the bunch over the first of three categorised climbs.
Carlee Taylor crashed out of the two-rider breakaway. She reached the top of the second GPM with a gap on Flávia Oliveira (Alé Cipollini) and set down the descent alone. Taylor says: “I got a gap over the top. I felt strong, so I kept going. I got into a corner that just came back on itself, and I overshot it, catapulting over the guardrail and down the cliff. My bike broke when I hit the rail. I slid down the other side through the trees and had to pull myself up and through the wire fencing. Because Flavia and I only had 50 seconds over the top, the team car had gone out of the gap, so I had to wait a really long time. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined my day.”
Twenty kilometres from the finish, nine riders led the race: Megan Guarnier and Evie Stevens (Boels-Dolmans), Kasia Niewiadoma and Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv), Elisa Longo Borghini and Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda), Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) and Karol Ann Canual (Velocio-SRAM). These nine would contest the finish with Guarnier taking the win and the maglia rosa.
The heat wave sweeping across Europe meant for another steamy day in the office. A technical finish capped off a relative flat stage, which at 135 kilometres, was the longest of the tour.
During the first three stages of the Giro Rosa, Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) twice finished second. On stage three Brand finally climbed on to the top step of the podium. The Dutchwoman was quickest from the nine-rider breakaway that formed just after the day’s only categorised climb. Italians Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) and Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) rounded out the podium.
The nine-rider escape group was a mix of overall contenders, domestiques and small-group sprinters. Brand, who wore the maglia rosa on stage two, is expected to support her team’s overall ambitions while Scandolara and Cecchini pack a punch in the sprint and have team approval to chase stage wins. The podium trio was joined up the road by Ella columnist Loren Rowney (Velocio-SRAM), Giro Rosa overall winner (2009) Claudia Lichtenberg (Liv Plantur), Malgorzta Jasinska (Alé Cipollini), Chiara Pierborn (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), Davia Tuslaite (Inpa Sottoli) and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda). The nine came to the line 1:15 ahead of the peloton.
Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) makes friends everywhere she goes. The Italian has a soft spot for friends of the furry variety and is studying sciences and technologies for breeding animals. She hopes to focus on veterinary medicine post-cycling career.
How happy is Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) to start another day in pink? This happy.
Despite early attacks, the peloton stayed together during the opening kilometres. Around the 30-kilometres mark, Giro Rosa debutante Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) attacked and managed to open up a gap. The next break to form was the race-winning move.
Brand and company broke away from a slightly reduced bunch just beyond the GPM. By the time they hit the bottom of a long descent, they had pocketed four minutes on the peloton. With Megan Guarnier in the maglia rosa, Boels-Dolmans to spraing into action. Their efforts reduced the gap to 1:15 at the line.
It was an all Italian podium on stage four of the Giro Rosa.Annalisa Cucinotta (Alé Cipollini) proved quickest in Pozzo d’Adda, besting Marta Bastianelli (Aromitalia-Vaiano) and Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal) to the line. Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) was best of the rest in fourth place.
Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) went on the attack yet again – but this time she had company as German national time trial champion Mieke Kroeger (Velocio-SRAM) joined Williams up the road. Soon Valentina Bastianelli (Inpa Sottoli) bridged across and Silvia Valsecchi (Bepink Laclassica) joined to make it a leading group of four.
A number of additional riders tried their luck at jumping across to the four-rider escape, but none proved successful. The quartet would gain a maximum advantage of 2:19 with around 45 kilometres remaining in the 103 kilometre stage.
Alé Cipollini and Wiggle Honda assumed responsibility for the chase inside the final hour of the race. Twenty-four kilometres from the finish, the peloton had shut down the day’s break.
Megan Guarnier finished safely in the bunch and extend her time in the maglia rosa. The top of the general classification remained unchanged following the sprint stage. Guarnier closed out stage four with a two second advantage over Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) in second. Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) sat in third at five seconds.
The peloton rolls out for the start of the fourth stage of the Giro Rosa.
Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) is on the attack – again! This three-rider breakaway would soon become four.
The leading quartet cooperated well but was unable to hold off a fast-charging peloton dead-set on a field sprint.
World champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Liv) soloed to victory atop Aprica on stage five of the Giro Rosa. Three kilometres from the top of the first summit finish of the 26th edition of the Italian Grand Tour, Ferrand-Prevot made her race winning move, following an attack from Francesa Cauz (Alé Cipollini). Cruz was unable to match Ferrand-Prevot’s pace and was swallowed up by the reduced peloton before the line. Ferrand-Prevot narrowly managed to hold off the chasers.
One second later, race leader Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) beat out Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) in a rare mountaintop field sprint. Pocketing an extra six seconds for second place, Guarnier’s sprint earned her a few precious seconds for the overall classification. The American closed out stage five with five seconds on Anna van der Breggen and 12 seconds on Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla).
The mountains in the distance foreshadow the summit finish to come. The Giro Rosa moved to the mountains in the second half of the 10-day Italian Grand Tour.
Early attacks made for a quick start, but the peloton stayed together, more or less, until the run-in to the finish climb.
With the lower slopes of the climb fast approaching, a group of 10 riders went clear. The breakaway swelled to nearly 20 riders as the road rose toward the Aprica ski resort.
Rain began to fall on the road to Aprica.
Eight kilometres from the finish, the peloton had reached the lone hold-out from the late race break. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Liv) would attack out of this reduced bunch to take the stage win.
Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) became the first Japanese rider to win a stage of the Giro Rosa on Thursday with a stunning solo victory into Morbegno. The five-time Japanese national road champion launched a bold attack on the last of three climbs, riding alone for nearly 30 kilometres before soloing across the stage six finish.
Twenty-four seconds following Hagiwara’s historic accomplishment, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) brought home an elite chase group of 10 riders. Pocketing six bonus seconds for second place on the stage, Guarnier again increased her lead in the overall. The American headed into stage seven with 11 seconds over Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv), who sat in second overall. Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla), who finished third on stage six, maintained her hold on third overall at 14 seconds down.
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) spent six days in pink in total during the 26 edition of the Giro Rosa. Stage six was her fourth day atop the general classification.
The race was fast from the start with a break of five going clear on the climb to Teglio, the first of the three climbs on stage six. Hagiwara was joined up the road by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Shara Gillow (Rabo-Liv), Elena Berlato (Alé Cipollini) and Alice Arzuffi (Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi). Sharon Laws (Bigla) successfully bridged across before the top of the first climb, and the escape group of six headed down the first descent with a 47 second advantage.
The maglia rosa group was repeatedly reduced over the hilly stage six terrain. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) was never under pressure with teammates up the road and by her side.
Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) soloed across the line and into the history books.
Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) added a second stage win to her name in the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa, soloing to victory in Loano. Sixty kilometres from the stage seven finish, Brand attacked out of the select maglia rosa group that formed on the day’s first climb. The Dutchwoman built up her advantage to nearly three minutes, ultimately crossing the finish line 2:41 before second place.
Maglia rosa wearer Megan Guarnier won the sprint for second from a group of six that included Rabo Liv teammates Anna van der Breggen and Kasia Niewiadoma, Wiggle Honda teammates Mara Abbott and Elisa Longo Borghini, and Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla). Finishing second for the third straight stage, Guarnier again extended her overall lead before the all-important individual time trial on Saturday.
The American headed into the final weekend of racing with a 16-second lead over Moolman, who jumped up to second overall thanks to bonus seconds earned with her third-place finish on Friday. Van der Breggen dropped down to third overall at 17 seconds.
It’s been a long, hot, hard week of racing but there are still plenty of smiles at the start.
Elisa Longo Broghini (Wiggle Honda) wore the blue jersey for best Italian for most of the week.
Job well done for Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) who picked up extra bonus seconds before the final weekend of racing.
Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) produced a commanding performance on the stage eight individual time trial at the Giro Rosa on Saturday. The Dutch national time trial champion stopped the clock at 36:05 following the 21.7 kilometre effort, 1:03 faster than pink jersey wearer Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans). Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) was third quickest over the lumpy effort with a time of 1:16.
Van der Breggen’s stage win catapulted her to the top spot on the general classification by 46 seconds over Guarnier, who had worn the maglia jersey since stage two. Moolman, who started the day second overall, drops down one spot to third place in 1:15.
The race of truth begins in the start house.
The Giro Rosa stage eight time trial was no ordinary individual effort. Set just west of Lago Maggiore, the route included technical descents, hairpin turns and 450 metres of climbing – most of which came during the first half of the course.
Given the nature of the course, equipment choice was a hot topic amongst riders. Some elected to ride on road bikes with clip on bars; some used time trial bikes. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) did a bike swap mid-stage.
2013 time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) navigates one of the many corners out on course – this one uphill.
South African time trial champion Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) rode what she called “the best time trial of her life” to finish third on the stage to slot into third overall ahead of the final day of racing.
Two-time Giro Rosa overall winner Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda) soloed to victory up to San Domenico di Varzo on Sunday on the final stage of the 2015 Giro Rosa. Abbott last won on the San Domenico climb two years ago – en route to her second overall win at the Italian Grand Tour. Abbott’s stage win atop San Domenico this time around saw her leap up the general classification from fifth to second overall at the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa.
Resplendent in pink, Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) reached the summit nearly one minute behind Abbott. With Abbott starting stage nine 2:30 off the race lead, van der Breggen’s final performance was enough to secure the maglia rosa that she had pulled on following her win in the time trial the previous day. Crossing the line, Van der Breggen knew she had won it, and she celebrated with a smile and a fist pumped in the ear.
Trailing van der Breggen by 18 seconds, Flavia Oliveira (Alé Cipollini) was the next to reach the ski resort, rounding out the stage nine podium. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) came to the line together with the American besting the South African for fourth on the stage. Following her six-day run in the pink jersey, Guarnier finished third overall and Moolman was pushed off the general classification podium by Abbott’s leap onto it.
This climb before the summit finish was an unexpected surprise for the peloton and did a bit of damage in the first half of the stage.
Rabo Liv rode a brilliant race in defence of Anna van der Breggen’s race lead. They were represented in every split and in control of every break.
The ninth stage of the Giro Rosa was always going to be about the mountaintop finish, but the attacks began the moment neutral gave way to proper racing. Malgorzta Jasinska (Alé Cipollini) launched the first attack. She was joined up the road by Giro Rosa stage six winner Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda). Unhappy with the escape, the peloton brought the duo back to the bunch.
Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) were the next to have a crack. They established a small gap, but when Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), Joelle Numainville (Bigla), two-time Giro Rosa stage winner Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) and Thalita de Jong (Rabo Liv) bridged across, collaboration waned and the race came back together.
The gruelling final ascent forced repeated selection. There were 12. Eight. Five. Until finally only Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda) and Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) remained.
Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) celebrates her Giro Rosa victory – which she called an unbelievable dream come true.